Workers across Europe continue to reel from high inflation and high prices for energy, food, rent and more. It permeated most debates during the Fagforbundet Congress which I had the pleasure of attending this week in Oslo. Many delegates had personal stories of what it meant to face higher costs of living. The stories were eerily familiar for delegations from unions from other countries.
It’s no surprise that the group then visited a picket line of striking Fagforbundet members. We showed our solidarity with childcare workers outside a private sector facility. Private childcare employers have refused to respect an agreement for better pensions. The agreement underlines that private sector workers should get similar pensions to those in the public sector. Frustrated with the long wait to implement the agreement, workers organised the strike action. It has begun in some facilities with certain services still running. The strike is organised by Fagforbundet, Delta and Utdanningsforbundet. The actions will be gradually escalated if the employer does not engage in discussions. It is an example of classic capitalism: in order for the private employers to protect their profit margins, workers have to suffer. France has also seen actions against the for-profit social services sector employers to get for better wages.
More child care workers in action
Child care workers organised in SOMK in Croatia are also engaging in actions. They launched a petition against unsafe work places, staff shortages and for more funding. EPSU sent a letter of solidarity. The demands are very familiar for the unions in the EPSU Childcare Network. We will bring their voices to European debates.
European debates on cost of living
The cost of living crisis will be addressed in the forthcoming EPSU Executive Committee, the tripartite social summit and in the European Council. Most attention will go to measures to reduce speculation and to assist households, jobs, public services and industry. ETUC delegations will stress the need for higher wages and other measures to help workers. A central principle of the policies and measures should be that the environment is respected. Governments need to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement and not make matters worse.
Trade union rights
Making matters worse is how the French government reacted to strikes of workers in oil refineries. It started to requisition workers, forcing them to show up to break the strike. This is a blatant violation of ILO principles and the ILO has condemned such measures. Unions organised protest strikes across France on 18 October. The collusion of governments and employers to oppose workers and unions in an unacceptable attack on the right to strike. Defending union rights is a case for all of us.
As European unions, we say with the striking Norwegian child care workers: Solidaritet med dere alle. Sammen er vi sterkere.